"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Monday, March 31, 2008

Is It Time to Boycott Amazon.com?

For its insistence that POD publishers use its own POD service or be denied listing on the Amazon site? Isn't monopoly still illegal in this country?

At Publisher's Weekly.

About Face at Borders

Borders bookstores' new plan is to have many more books positioned facing out, which will require more shelf space. The chain plans to cut the total number of titles it stocks, already a sleepy 3/4 - 3/5 of the average Barnes & Noble's titles. Which is why I prefer B&N -- unless it's the lack of coffee at Borders that makes me sleepy?

Is it worth carrying fewer books to sell more? I guess it is, as a business decision. I know it is a business, but I prefer to see a bookstore as a portal to unknown worlds, like the library, which is also eliminating titles, unfortunately, to make room for other media.

Thanks to Nathan Bransford for this note.

It's Not You, It's Your Books.

No, it's you.

Compatibility in reading taste
, and "the romantic tragedy of our age."

Do you agree:

Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone."

“If you’re a person who loves Alice Munro and you’re going out with someone whose favorite book is ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ perhaps the flags of incompatibility were there prior to the big reveal.”


“It’s really great if you find a guy that reads, period.”

“Generally, if a guy had read a book in the last year, or ever, that was good enough.”

Compatibility in reading taste is a “luxury”.... The goal is “to find somebody where your perversions match and who you can stand.”

I agree with the last goal. I'm not sure I ever had a boyfriend with compatible reading tastes. After all, isn't reading a very private thing? More so even than fantasy?

Guys, please note that the quotes above were not meant to impugn your reading inclinations. Those were just the ones I could use easily. Women who read the wrong books or who don't laugh while reading also get their comeuppance in the article.

Is Your Coffee Killing Songbirds?

No, it's not the caffeine, but it may be those out-of-season strawberries you like to have with it.

Organic coffee is bird-friendly, according to Bridget Stutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds. As is any organic produce.

Since the 1980s, pesticide use has increased fivefold in Latin America as countries have expanded their production of nontraditional crops to fuel the demand for fresh produce during winter in North America and Europe. Rice farmers in the region use monocrotophos, methamidophos and carbofuran, all agricultural chemicals that are rated Class I toxins by the World Health Organization, are highly toxic to birds, and are either restricted or banned in the United States.

At the New York Times. Not only are birds being poisoned in their wintering grounds in Latin America, but produce covered in poisons is making its way to us. Due to the pesticides used, "tests by the Centers for Disease Control show that most Americans carry traces of pesticides in their blood."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Clinton-Kerouac Connection

This is really too good to pass up.

Senator Clinton is related to Jack Kerouac. Also to Madonna, Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, and...Angelina Jolie.

Barack Obama is related to Dick Cheney, George Bush, Gerald R. Ford, Winston Churchill and...Brad Pitt.

Via the NY Times. From Notablekin.org.

A Happy Writer

Visionary Arthur C. Clarke, has died.

His Three Laws:

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The limits of the possible can only be found by going beyond them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology may, at first, be indistinguishable from magic.

The Guardian has an excellent article about the man who gave us 2001: A Space Odyssey and 136 other books, and whose imagination sparked the imaginations of billions (and billions) of others, including Carl Sagan, who read Clarke's nonfiction book, Interplanetary Flight. Clarke was in turn inspired by Olaf Stapledon, whose novels Odd John and Sirius I happen to have sitting on my desk...along with a ton of other books in various stages of being read (some at the wishful thinking stage). Luckily it's a big desk, but this is as good an opportunity to mention Stapledon and the mutated superman/superdog novels. According to the Guardian, it was Last and First Men that inspired Clarke. One more for the to-read list.

Monday, March 17, 2008

100 Best First Lines

As chosen by the editors of the American Book Review. This was interesting, if only to get one thinking about one's own favorites. I agree with some, particularly the William Gibson, #30 on this list:

30. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. Neuromancer

Here are some others:

26. 124 was spiteful. (Toni Morrison, from Beloved)
37. Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. (Virginia Woolf, from Mrs. Dalloway)
64. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. (F. Scott Fitzerald, from The Great Gatsby)
99. They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. (Jean Rhys from Wide Sargasso Sea)

Got any favorites? Feel free to share.

Writing Advice That Has Gone Out of Date

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." --Mark Twain.

Nobody deletes "damn" anymore. I suppose you'd have to use "fucking" now, to have a chance of getting it deleted, and even then.

Writing Advice That Has Not Gone Out of Date

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are." --W. Somerset Maugham.

This could be taken for a rule:

"The trick is to begin suddenly, like plunging into an icy sea and bearing its intense coldness with suicidal courage." Clarice Lispector

Monday, March 10, 2008

Original Sin

That's one you think of yourself, to quote Father Guido Sarducci. As a race, humans have thought of a few new ones and the Vatican weighs in:
Thou shall not pollute the Earth. Thou shall beware genetic manipulation. Modern times bring with them modern sins. So the Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of "new" sins such as causing environmental blight.

The Environmental Defense Fund has an eye-opening chart posted. Some kinds of fish are just not safe to eat at all any more, especially for women and children.

And speaking of what is in the water, taking prescription drugs is not usually considered polluting, but it may be time to rethink that. Article. The larger the human population gets, the more the concentrations of such chemicals.

Fishy article and links from Yahoo.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bestsellers US and UK -- Go Gatsby!

at the Abebooks blog. I'm happy to see The Great Gatsby there, along with...the Flat Belly Diet??

Top 10 Bestsellers for AbeBooks.com for February 2008
1. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
3. Flat Belly Diet by Liz Vaccariello
4. The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren
5. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
6. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
10. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Top 10 bestsellers for AbeBooks.co.uk for February 2008
1. Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump
2. Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Morton
3. Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments by Alex Boese
4. The Mass Book for Children by Rosemarie Gortler
5. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
6. The Accrington Pals by Peter Whelan
7. Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain by Trevor Romain
8. Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon Fee
9. Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Millan
10. Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

Lists like this make me wonder if people have too many choices. I'm sure lots of novels are being sold, just not the same ones. So, how do people all decide to jump on these 10 books? They weren't all on Oprah.

Mancabulary Lesson

Need a manzilian? Got man cans? Read this.

Funny article about man parts and such.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Burning Lolita

Or, as it is being called, Ur-Lolita, a last, unfinished manuscript by Nabokov that he explicitly requested to be burnt -- Laura, with the dirty bits left in. It is now up to his son and translator, Dmitri, to decide the manuscript's fate.

A bit more of a hint is given by the second excerpt in The Nabokovian. In this one, we are introduced to a Mr. Hubert (one "m" short of Lolita's Humbert, of course) who seems to be engaged in a Lolita-like relationship with a young girl (presumably the same one as in the first excerpt), here named Flora, of whom we learn little. In the scene, Hubert and Flora play chess with one of those cheap little plastic sets in which the pieces are pegged into holes on the board. There is some sexualizing description of the "tickly-looking little holes [which] ... the pin-sized pawns penetrated easily." And of the young girl who—double entendre warning—"knew the moves." On the relationship of Flora to Laura, though, the passage is mum.

Part one, at Slate, and Part Two. As a Nabokov devotee, and with the classic American authority problem, I can have only one opinion about this -- To hell with the master's wishes, publish the book and sell the original on ebay.

Okay, maybe not ebay.

"Why don't you steal from a fucking corporate bookstore, you asshole?"

The coin of the realm is now, and has always been, the fiction that young white men read, and self-satisfied young white men, the kind who love to stick it to the man, are the majority of book shoplifters.

I have a hard time picturing independent booksellers as "the man," myself. But I am not a young white man.

1. Charles Bukowski
2. Jim Thompson
3. Philip K. Dick
4. William S. Burroughs
5. Any Graphic Novel

This is pretty much the authoritative top five, the New York Times best-seller list of stolen books.

At The Stranger.